Nick Mullens, Pierre Garcon, Kendrick Bourne Fantasy Outlook After Week 9November 2, 2018
Down to their third-string quarterback, the San Francisco 49ers had little trouble moving the ball and finding the end zone against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday night at Levi's Stadium in a 34-3 blowout.
As a result, many fantasy football owners found themselves wondering what to make of the Week 9 tilt.
After 49ers backup quarterback C.J. Beathard suffered a wrist injury against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, it was unclear who would be under center for the Battle of the Bay.
In a game-day decision, second-year signal-caller Nick Mullens got the nod as Beathard struggled to grip the football. And while many had to use Google to find out who Mullens was, he introduced himself by leading San Francisco on a six-play, 75-yard opening drive for a touchdown. The Niners controlled the contest from there, as evidenced by their 31-3 lead after three quarters.
Meanwhile, the undrafted passer out of Southern Miss was the star. Mullens finished 16-of-22 for 262 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. He led the team on scoring drives in four of its first five possessions.
Not bad for a first career NFL start.
But it's important to keep things in perspective. The Raiders entered Thursday night's game 1-6, and their only win came in overtime at home against the 2-5-1 Cleveland Browns. The Oakland defense ranks 26th in yards allowed (407.4 yards per game), 31st in points allowed (31.1) and last in sacks (seven).
That's not a bad opponent to debut against.
It's not clear who'll be under center against the New York Giants come Nov. 12. Beathard was healthy enough on Thursday to serve as the backup. However, perhaps head coach Kyle Shanahan will ride the hot hand and stick with Mullens.
Regardless, fantasy owners should wait until Mullens has more of a track record before they put their team in his hands as the playoffs near.
Coming back from a neck injury that limited him to eight games a season ago, Pierre Garcon has started slowly in 2018.
The 32-year-old had just 21 catches for 230 yards through the first eight weeks and had failed to find the end zone before Thursday night. That quickly changed in Week 9.
Mullens and Garcon hooked up for a 24-yard touchdown to cap the Niners' opening drive:
With that, the 11-year veteran was on his way to his best performance of the season.
As with Mullens, though, fantasy owners need to be cautious. For those in deep leagues, Garcon could merit a start now that he has three-plus catches in four of the past five games. But for those with options, he's still a risky play.
Garcon averaged 8.3 targets from Week 4 to 6, a large spike from the 4.6 per game he averaged through the first three weeks. However, he entered Week 9 listed as questionable with knee and shoulder injuries and had just one catch for five yards in his last game.
Garcon showed he's healthy enough to make a fantasy impact, but given it came against a struggling Raiders defense, fantasy owners would be wise to play a matchup game with him if they have other options.
Coming off his most productive game of the season, second-year wideout Kendrick Bourne was looking to prove he was a reliable option for the 49ers and fantasy owners.
Well, Thursday night provided mixed results.
The good news for fantasy players is Bourne found the end zone:
The bad news? That was his only catch in the first three quarters. He added a one-yard grab in the fourth and finished with just two targets.
That score gave him three touchdowns on 18 receptions this season and snapped a four-game touchdown drought. It also came on the heels of a season-high 10 targets, seven receptions and 71 yards against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8.
Bourne may be scoring on 16.7 percent of his catches this season, but he is also averaging just 3.6 targets per game. The 6'1", 203-pound receiver had no more than one grab in five of eight games entering Thursday's action.
Unless he's the go-to red-zone target, those are tough numbers for fantasy owners to swallow. More importantly, that means Bourne can't be more than a reserve on fantasy teams.